Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Moshinsky's Simon Boccanegra returns to Covent Garden

Despite the flaming torches of the plebeian plotters which, in the Prologue, etched chiaroscuro omens within the Palladian porticos of Michael Yeargan’s imposing and impressive set, this was a rather slow-burn revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 production of Simon Boccanegra.

Royal Academy's Semele offers 'endless pleasures'

Self-adoring ‘celebrities’ beware. That smart-phone which feeds your narcissism might just prove your nemesis.

The Eternal Flame: Debussy, Lindberg, Stravinsky and Janáček - London Philharmonic, Vladimir Jurowski

Although this concert was ostensibly, and in some respects a little tenuously, linked to the centenary of the Armistice, it did create some challenging assumptions about the nature of war. It was certainly the case in Magnus Lindberg’s new work, Triumf att finnas till… (‘Triumph to Exist…’) that he felt able to dislocate from the horror of the trenches and slaughter by using a text by the wartime poet Edith Södergran which gravitates towards a more sympathetic, even revisionist, expectation of this period.

François-Xavier Roth conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Works by Ligeti, Bartók and Haydn

For the second of my armistice anniversary concerts, I moved across town from the Royal Festival Hall to the Barbican.

The Silver Tassie at the Barbican Hall

‘Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.’ The words of George Orwell, expressed in a Tribune article, ‘The Sporting Spirit’, published in 1945.

The Last Letter: the Britten Sinfonia at Milton Court

The Barbican Centre’s For the Fallen commemorations continued with this varied and thought-provoking programme, The Last Letter, which interweaved vocal and instrumental music with poems and prose, and focused on relationships - between husband and wife, fellow soldiers, young men and their homelands - disrupted by war.

Fiona Shaw's Cendrillon casts a spell: Glyndebourne Tour 2018

Fiona Shaw’s new production of Massenet’s Cendrillon (1899) for this year’s Glyndebourne Tour makes one feel that the annual Christmas treat at the ballet or the panto has come one month early.

The Rake’s Progress: Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic

Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress is not, in many ways, a progressive opera; it doesn’t seek to radicalise, or even transform, opera and yet it is indisputably one of the great twentieth-century operas.

A raucous Così fan tutte at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Precisely where and when Così fan tutte takes place should be a matter of sublime indifference - or at least of individual taste. It is ‘about’ many things, but eighteenth-century Naples - should that actually be the less exotic yet still ‘othered’ neāpolis of Wiener Neustadt? - is not among them.

For the Fallen: James Macmillan's All the Hills and Vales Along at Barbican Hall

‘He has clothed his attitude in fine words: but he has taken the sentimental attitude.’ So, wrote fellow war poet Charles Hamilton Sorley of the last sonnets of Rupert Brooke.

English Touring Opera: Troubled fidelities and faiths

‘Can engaging with contemporary social issues save the opera?’ asked M. Sophia Newman last week, on the website, News City, noting that many commentators believe that ‘public interest in stuffy, intimidating, expensive opera is inevitably dwindling’, and that ‘several recent opera productions suggest that interest in a new kind of urban, less formally-staged, socially-engaged opera is emerging and drawing in new audiences to the centuries-old art form’.

Himmelsmusik: L'Arpeggiata bring north and south together at Wigmore Hall

Johann Theile, Crato Bütner, Franz Tunder, Christian Ritter, Giovanni Felice Sances … such names do not loom large in the annals of musical historiography. But, these and other little-known seventeenth-century composers took their place alongside Bach and Biber, Schütz and Monteverdi during L’Arpeggiata’s most recent exploration of musical cross-influences and connections.

Piotr Beczała – Polish and Italian art song, Wigmore Hall London

Can Piotr Beczała sing the pants off Jonas Kaufmann ? Beczała is a major celebrity who could fill a big house, like Kaufmann does, and at Kaufmann prices. Instead, Beczała and Helmut Deutsch reached out to that truly dedicated core audience that has made the reputation of the Wigmore Hall : an audience which takes music seriously enough to stretch themselves with an eclectic evening of Polish and Italian song.

Soloists excel in Chelsea Opera Group's Norma at Cadogan Hall

“Let us not be ashamed to be carried away by the simple nobility and beauty of a lucid melody of Bellini. Let us not be ashamed to shed a tear of emotion as we hear it!”

Handel's Serse: Il Pomo d'Oro at the Barbican Hall

Sadly, and worryingly, there are plenty of modern-day political leaders - both dictators and the democratically elected - whose petulance, stubbornness and egoism threaten the safety of their own subjects as well as the stability and security of other nations.

Dutch touring Tosca is an edge-of-your-seat thriller

Who needs another Tosca? Seasoned opera buffs can be blasé about repertoire mainstays. But the Nederlandse Reisopera’s production currently touring the Netherlands is worth seeing, whether it is your first or your hundred-and-first acquaintance with Puccini’s political drama. The staging is refreshing and pacey. Musically, it has the four crucial ingredients: three accomplished leads and a conductor who swashbuckles through the score in a blaze of color.

David Alden's fine Lucia returns to ENO

The burden of the past, and the duty to ensure its survival in the present and future, exercise a violent grip on the male protagonists in David Alden’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor for English National Opera, with dangerous and disturbing consequences.

Verdi's Requiem at the ROH

The full title of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem per l’anniversario della morte di Manzoni 22 maggio 1874 attests to its origins, but it was the death of Giacomo Rossini on 13th November 1868 that was the initial impetus for Verdi’s desire to compose a Requiem Mass which would honour Rossini, one of the figureheads of Italian cultural magnificence, in a national ceremony which - following the example of Cherubini’s C minor Requiem and Berlioz’s Grande messe des morts - was to be as much a public and political occasion as a religious one.

Wexford Festival 2018

The 67th Wexford Opera Festival kicked off with three mighty whacks of a drum and rooster’s raucous squawk, heralding the murderous machinations of the drug-dealing degenerate, Cim-Fen, in Franco Leoni’s one-act blood-and-guts verismo melodrama, L’oracolo … alongside an announcement by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, of an award of €1 million in capital funding for the National Opera House to support necessary updating and refurbishment works over the next 3 years.

A New La bohème Opens Season at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its 2018-19 season with Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème. This new production, shared with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and with the Teatro Real, Madrid, features an accomplished cast and innovative scenic approaches.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lianna Haroutounian [http://www.liannaharoutounian.com]
21 Jan 2016

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

A review by Jenny Camilleri

Above: Lianna Haroutounian

 

Stepping in for Karel Mark Chichon, who cancelled due to illness, young Italian conductor Pietro Rizzo led the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in a exciting, if imperfect, performance. It was evident that he had had very little time with the orchestra. The first bars sounded rather scrabbly. There were unsteady woodwind attacks, especially in the wedding scene, and the horn section repeatedly lagged behind in Act III. Mr Rizzo’s signalling to the Netherlands Radio Choir, who ushered in Butterfly with some heavenly sounds, also suffered from their belated acquaintance. The Humming Chorus, sung backstage, was adequate musically but lacked dynamic subtlety. Flaws aside, however, the performance had a pulsating energy and was enriched with carefully crafted details. Mr Rizzo can suspend a phrase in mid-air and then let it glide down as gracefully as the folds of a kimono. He also whipped up some thrilling Puccinian crests, although climaxes were hard-edged and needed more roundness in the brass. Altogether, Mr Rizzo’s was an exciting Concertgebouw debut. It was also his first time conducting in the Netherlands, and hopefully he will return soon. There were excellent contributions from some of the principals, in particular concertmaster Joris van Rijn’s tender solos, Ellen Versney’s softly glittering harp and Paul Jussen’s portentous timpani.

All the soloists sang the music by heart, which is always a boon, and entered and exited in character. Most of the supporting cast ranged from acceptable to competent. As Goro tenor Ho-yoon Chung sang very well indeed, but nothing in his characterisation suggested the marriage-broker’s base, money-grubbing nature. He sounded more like a friendly next-door neighbour. A cut above the rest were bass Miklós Sebestyén as the Bonze and the three Dutch singers playing Kate Pinkerton and Butterfly’s relatives. Mr Sebestyén was vocally commanding in his short scene, storming in to renounce Cio-Cio-San for converting to Christianity. Maria Fiselier, Ruth Willemse and Julia Westendorp were all outstanding.

Tenor Arnold Rutkowski has an attractive lyric voice with an interesting, bittersweet chocolatey timbre. His Pinkerton was young and foolish and completely unaware of the havoc he was wreaking. He was on solid ground as long as he sang mezzo forte or louder. Softer singing resulted in quality loss. Mr Rutkowski is very musical, but more dynamic control would increase his expressive possibilities. He had all the high notes, which he jettisoned with great physical energy, but the dicey trajectory they sometimes took made one wish for more technical grip. Baritone Angelo Veccia was a suave and humane Sharpless. His refined phrasing amply made up for some throatiness, mostly evident in the upper third of the voice. Mr Veccia’s restrained Sharpless found a dramatic foil in Marie-Nicole Lemieux, who brought her potent dramatic presence to Suzuki. The extremes of her acerbic top and plunging contralto made Butterfly’s maid and companion both fierce-tempered and fiercely maternal. The orchestra was often a little too loud—a common issue at the Concertgebouw, where sound carries further than some conductors realise—but Ms Lemieux could easily counter the volume.

So could Lianna Haroutounian, who gave a world-class performance as the abandoned teenage bride. Her Butterfly was trusting but dignified, and devoid of simpering silliness. With its rich, silk-wrapped vibrato, even focus from top to bottom, and that ductile quality Italians call morbidezza (softness), Ms Haroutounian’s voice is ideal for the young heroine. And she is a true spinto soprano, with enough power and stamina to tackle the onerous third act. Her full top notes are confident and lustrous. She did not take the high D flat at the end of the entrance aria, but the composer-sanctioned lower alternative, and quite beautifully too. “Un bel dì vedremo” (One fine day) was vocal perfection. She effectively built up the tension during Butterfly’s imagined reunion with Pinkerton and ended the aria in a stunning high B flat. Visibly emotional in the suicide scene, she veered a little sharp in “Tu, tu, piccolo iddio” (You, you, my little god). Halfway through, she refocused her voice and sailed through to a secure finale. Unsurprisingly, the hall gave her a clamorous ovation. San Francisco Opera has already announced that Ms Haroutounian will be their Butterfly next season. No doubt she will be invited to sing this role at several other houses. As many Puccini fans as possible need to hear her in it. In fact, opera fans of all types need to hear Ms Haroutounian, in any of her roles—hers is one of the major voices of our time.

Jenny Camilleri


Cast and production information:

Cio-Cio-San — Lianna Haroutounian, Suzuki — Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Arnold Rutkowski — Pinkerton, Sharpless — Angelo Veccia, Goro — Ho-yoon Chung, Prince Yamadori— Yujoong Kim, The Bonze— Miklós Sebestyén, Yakusidé — Hee-Saup Yoon, The Imperial Commissioner — Enseok Choi, The Official Registrar — Kyung-Il Ko, Cio-Cio-San’s Mother — Ruth Willemse, Kate Pinkerton/Aunt — Maria Fiselier, Niece — Julia Westendorp, Conductor — Pietro Rizzo, Netherlands Radio Choir, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. Heard at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on Saturday, 16th January, 2016.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):